News From Terre Haute, Indiana


January 1, 2011

Plans in the works for large 9/11 anniversary event

TERRE HAUTE — T.J. Coonce will never forget the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

On the 10th anniversary of the attacks this September, she wants to do something special to remember not only 9/11 victims, but also American service members who have since lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan while defending their country’s safety.

Coonce is hoping to pull off a major event at Fairbanks Park in which a tealight candle would be lit for each person who died — both 9/11 victims and military members who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. That would involve an estimated 3,000 candles for 9/11 victims and thousands more to honor fallen service members.

The Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks  “affected us all in some manner,” said Coonce, who now lives in St. Bernice but is a Terre Haute native. “Almost everyone can say where they were when it happened.”

A year after the attack, she conducted a candle lighting ceremony in her own front yard and “everyone in town was in my front yard lighting candles,” she said. “I wanted to show my kids the significance of that day.”

What she’s planning is a major undertaking and she’s asking for volunteers to assist her. She also says she will need donations of tealight candles and assistance to pay for liability insurance. She also hopes to have music at the event.

Her goal is to conduct the event at Fairbanks Park, although that is not yet finalized.

She is working with the city of Terre Haute and has reserved the Fairbanks amphitheater. She has submitted paperwork to the city parks department, which wants to be sure it can safely accommodate whatever logistics and support might be required, said Eddie Bird, parks superintendent.

Officials want to ensure there is adequate parking, depending on the numbers of people who might attend.

Also, the event is so far off that whatever is needed “could change completely by the time September is here,” Bird said.

Coonce also has met with Mayor Duke Bennett.

She is putting a committee together and is seeking the public’s help. Volunteers also are needed to help light candles, and the event would be open to the public.

Whether it’s in Fairbanks or in her front yard, she is determined to have a ceremony to honor those who have died. “There will be a lighting, come hell or highwater,” she said.

She has an uncle and cousin in the military who recently returned home. She couldn’t imagine being in the shoes of those who have lost a loved one in Iraq or Afghanistan.

“I want them to be honored and remembered,” she said, and she wants the community to join her.

Coonce can be reached at (812) 240-7967. Donations of tealight candles could be sent to 12360 S. State Road 71, Clinton, IN 47842.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or

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